Nom Nom Paleo

Paleo By Season’s Atkilt (Spiced Ethiopian Vegetable Stew)

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Paleo By Season’s Atkilt (Spiced Ethiopian Vegetable Stew)

Autumn may trigger pumpkin spice cravings in most folks, but for me? Not so much. I yearn instead for hearty Ethiopian fare. It’s not just because I’m contrary by nature, like my mom. (I know you’re shaking your head, mom, but it’s true.) As longtime readers know from my Doro Wat recipe post, I fell in love with Ethiopian cuisine during my first semester in college. Naturally, the return of crisp, fall weather always stirs up memories of chowing on comforting stews at my favorite Ethiopian joints in Berkeley.

In other words, I’m feeling old and wistful about my glory days.

Paleo By Season’s Atkilt (Spiced Ethiopian Vegetable Stew)

Thankfully, to scratch that nostalgic itch, I can turn to my review copy of Chef Peter Servold’s Paleo By Season. For those of you who don’t know Pete, he’s the classically trained chef behind Pete’s Paleo, a fantastic Paleo meal service that ships all over the U.S. Like all the best chefs, Peter knows that the quality of a dish hinges on the use of fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients. And in his beautiful cookbook, Pete groups his recipes by season (hence the title!) so that readers can cook the best of the available bounty.

Paleo By Season’s Atkilt (Spiced Ethiopian Vegetable Stew)

Flipping through the “Fall” section of Pete’s cookbook, I yelped. I’d discovered not one, but three Ethiopian recipes. My favorite of this trio happens to be the simplest: Atkilt, a humble spiced root vegetable stew. I’d tinkered with my own recipe in the past, but I never quite nailed the flavor combination—and my attempts sometimes came out overly mushy, too.

Thankfully, early in his career, Pete worked at an Ethiopian restaurant—and not surprisingly, his version of Atkilt is spot-on. I was instantly transported back to my days as a wide-eyed freshman at Cal. All that was missing was my dorky tie-dyed leggings, jangly Telegraph Avenue jewelry, and cockroach-kickin’ Doc Martens boots. 

Ready to check out Pete’s recipe?

Paleo By Season’s Atkilt (Spiced Ethiopian Vegetable Stew)

Here’s what to gather to serve 4-6 people as a side dish:

  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 small green cabbage (1 pound), cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 medium carrots (1 pound), cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1¾ pounds white potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (you can substitute cauliflower florets if you don’t eat potatoes—but hey, did you hear that potatoes are now Whole30-approved?)
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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Spicy Tuna Cakes

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Spicy Tuna Cakes by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Now that I’ve quit my job, I should’ve spent the past week developing and writing up a brand-spankin’ new recipe for y’all, but you know how it is: the mountain of crumpled-up laundry on the couch is keeping me from doing ALL THE THINGS. I’ll admit it: I’m terrible at keeping our house in order. But don’t you worry your pretty little heads; as soon as I emerge from this bottomless pile of mismatched socks and pillowcases, I’ll get back to cooking. After all, there’s nothing I love more than messing up the kitchen.

Spicy Tuna Cakes by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

In the meantime, how ’bout I share one of the most popular recipes from our cookbook and iPad app? (You’re nodding, right?) Ready or not, it’s time for Spicy Tuna Cakes! 

Spicy Tuna Cakes by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I make these portable savory cakes about once a month ’cause I aways have the ingredients on hand. You may not normally associate canned fish with sweet potatoes and jalapeño peppers, but trust me on this one: they’re tender and subtly sweet, with a wickedly peppery bite that sneaks up on you. The heat levels can be adjusted to your taste; amp it up by subbing serrano peppers in place of jalapeño, or turn it down by cutting down on the red pepper flakes. Serve these spicy cakes for breakfast, lunch, or dinner—or whip up an extra-big batch for your next dinner party!

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Bacon Pancake Sandwiches

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Bacon Pancake Sandwiches by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I know what you’re thinking: BACON? PANCAKE? SANDWICHES? All are clichés in the Paleo food world (and let’s not kid ourselves: they’re certainly not health food), but there are reasons why they’re so popular:

Bacon and pancakes are mind-bendingly delicious, and who doesn’t like eating with their hands?

Bacon Pancake Sandwiches by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

So yes: I’m totally pandering to the masses (and my own taste buds) with this recipe. After all, Bacon + Pancakes + Sandwich = Paleo Kryptonite.

Bacon Pancake Sandwiches by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I don’t post recipes for treats very often, but when I do, I make sure they’re worth singing about

Get excited!

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Cantonese Egg Custard with Minced Pork

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Cantonese Egg Custard with Minced Pork http://nomnompaleo.com

For as long as I can remember, I’ve harangued my mother to share her recipes for my favorite childhood dishes. She’s rebuffed me every time—in the most passive-aggressive way possible. A typical phone conversation:

“Hi, mom—what’s in your pot sticker filling? I’d like to try to make some.”

“Pot sticker filling? Ahhh…I don’t know…my recipes aren’t written down. They’re all in my head. I just…well, you know, Michelle. I just mix things together until it’s ready. I do it purely by look and feel. And smell. It’s all about experience. I’ve been making pot stickers for many years—since before you were born. Over 40 years!”

“Yes, I know—and I love the filling. If you’re not going to share with me how you make it, can you just tell me the ingredients you use?”

“Well…no. Because it changes. Sometimes, I use shrimp. Sometimes, dried scallops. But I’m telling you—it’s no use; you won’t be able to get the same quality. If you make it, it won’t be the same. How about I just make some for you and the kids instead?”

“But I want the recipe!”

“You know, my mother never gave me her recipes…”

Sigh.

Cantonese Egg Custard with Minced Pork http://nomnompaleo.com

My mother’s culinary secrets remain safely secured in her mental vault, but through trial (and plenty of error), I’ve managed to come up with my own (Paleo!) versions of a few of her insanely delicious, super-comforting home-cooked dishes.

Case in point: this simple recipe for Cantonese-style savory egg custard with minced pork, asparagus, and mushrooms.

Cantonese Egg Custard with Minced Pork http://nomnompaleo.com

The version I grew up eating usually featured not just ground pork, but also salted, preserved duck egg yolks (鹹蛋) and fresh green scallions. It was my mom’s version of emergency protein—a quick and satisfying go-to dish to accompany the four other entrées (plus soup!) that she prepared for supper every night.

You can do the same with my recipe—or just eat it without any accompanying dishes at all. Filled with meat and vegetables, this egg custard can easily stand alone as a complete meal. It’s versatile, too; if you don’t have pork or asparagus or mushrooms on hand, just grab whatever ingredients you have on hand to prepare the filling. Just be sure to use the prescribed egg-to-water ratio to ensure a silky custard.

Ready?

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Carrot + Cardamom Soup

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Hey, look! Michael Ruhlman just posted one of my favorite soup recipes from our cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans!

Carrot + Cardamom Soup by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

It took many tweaks to get it juuuuust right, but this Carrot + Cardamom Soup is now my go-to recipe to showcase this lowly root vegetable in its best light. 

Carrot + Cardamom Soup by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Carrot + Cardamom Soup by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Check our my Carrot + Cardamom Soup recipe here, and while you’re at it, take a gander at my recent Ruhlman guest post about my own take on Paleo, too.

Carrot + Cardamom Soup by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Carrot + Cardamom Soup by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

While we’re on the topic of Ruhlman: if you’re as crazy about eggs as I am, you must get your hands on Michael’s new book, Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient. It’s a must-have for anyone who aspires to be a serious cook. (Okay, fine: you get a free pass if you’re allergic to eggs.)

Happy cooking!

Feeling Schweddy

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I adore Evan Kleiman’s Good Food show on KCRW, Los Angeles’s public radio station—and not just because it was one of the inspirations behind Saturday Night Live’s classic Delicious Dish sketches. Come on—you remember Alec Baldwin’s Schweddy Balls, right?

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Thanks to my subscription to the Good Food podcast on iTunes, I regularly listen to Evan dig into the very best of food culture. Along with The Splendid Table, Evan’s show represents the very best of food journalism on the radio.

And happily, Henry and I pop up on today’s edition of Good Food to talk with Evan about Paleo! 

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Bacon Apple Smothered Pork Chops

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Bacon Apple Smothered Pork Chops by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

With its Creole heritage, smothered pork chops is hearty comfort food at its most straightforward. Just brown some chops and cover ’em with a thick, savory layer of sautéed onions and gravy; you’ll have a satisfying meal in no time. But don’t mistake easy for bland. My flavor-first version of this southern dish will satisfy even the most ornery eater—guaranteed.

The secret to a smashing onion gravy, of course, is the roux—the thickening agent traditionally made from approximately equal amounts of fat to flour. My Paleo roux substitutes arrowroot powder for the flour, and uses bacon drippings as the fat of choice, which adds a wonderful smokiness to the sauce.

Bacon Apple Smothered Pork Chops by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

And what goes better with pork chops than apples? Answer: nothing. 

Bacon Apple Smothered Pork Chops by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

The sweetness of the fruit and onions strikes the perfect counterbalance to the bacon-y richness of the gravy. An apple a day doesn’t just keep the doctor away—it also takes these pork chops from good to great. 

Bacon Apple Smothered Pork Chops by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Is your stomach growling yet? Then let’s get down to business!

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Warm Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Asian Citrus Dressing

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It’s Part 2 of my Nomtastic Thanksgiving series! (If you missed Part 1, it’s over here!)

Warm Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Asian Citrus Dressing by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Growing up in a Chinese-American household, I never had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: no turkey with stuffing, no cranberry sauce, no mashed potatoes with gravy, no sweet potato pie with marshmallows. But don’t cry for me, Argentina: the truth is, I never missed out on anything. After all, every Turkey Day, our family still gathered together at our house, and my mother would whip up a special East-Meets-West feast. We always had a Very Special Fusion Thanksgiving. (The menu changed every year, though my personal favorite involved Chinese sticky-rice-stuffed Cornish hens.)

Today’s recipe takes a page from my mom’s handbook: a traditional Turkey Day vegetable side with Asian flair! *Insert jazz hands here.*

Warm Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Asian Citrus Dressing by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

A tangy orange-ginger dressing gives this warm Brussels sprouts slaw a zesty zing that’ll liven up your Thanksgiving table. Besides, this is a super-easy side dish: it takes just 20 minutes to throw together. You can even shred the sprouts a day in advance, and cook ‘em in your already-hot oven after your turkey is done and resting. And if you have leftovers (and you probably won’t!), this slaw keeps really well, and can be eaten cold, hot, or at any temperature in-between. This just might be my favorite Brussels sprouts recipe—and that’s saying a lot because I love these mini cabbage impostors.

Warm Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Asian Citrus Dressing by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Ready for the recipe?

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Hank Shaw’s Slow Roasted Duck (& a Giveaway of Duck, Duck, Goose!)

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Hank Shaw's Slow Roasted Duck (& a Giveaway of Duck, Duck, Goose!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

When I was a kid, my favorite dish was Cantonese roast duck. And frankly, I still love this dish.

Every few weeks, my mom would buy a whole roasted duck from Chinatown for a family feast. The heady smell of roasted meat and five spice powder always drew me into the kitchen; there, I’d stealthily pick at the tender duck and crispy amber skin while it was still in its take-out container.

My mom always bought the entire duck—with head and neck still attached—because she wanted to utilize the whole animal. She wouldn’t carve it up until we got home; the meat would go on a platter while the carcass was used to make a flavorful master stock for the rest of the week’s meals.

Hank Shaw's Slow Roasted Duck (& a Giveaway of Duck, Duck, Goose!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Once, when I asked her why she never had the guy behind the counter at the Chinese market chop up the meat for her, she laughed. Anyone naive enough to do that would inevitably get stiffed a few pieces, she explained. The best pieces.

Right before dinner, my mom would reheat the duck in the oven to re-crisp the skin, and then place it on her gnarled wooden chopping block and hack it into bite-size pieces with her ginormous cleaver. This was my cue: I’d oh-so-casually sidle up next to her and make puppy eyes at her until she handed me a piece of glistening meat to scarf down before dinner.

My love of duck has persisted to this day. But although I’ve prepared it a number of different ways, I never attempted to cook a whole duck until just last week. The reasons? I didn’t have ready access to a top-notch source for whole ducks, and I wasn’t confident that I had a fool-proof recipe. After all, high quality ducks are expensive, and I didn’t want to screw it up.

Hank Shaw's Slow Roasted Duck (& a Giveaway of Duck, Duck, Goose!) by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

But recently, two things changed. I’ve become a regular customer/convert of Good Eggs—a service that delivers fresh food from local farmers and artisans to customers’ doorsteps—and I was delighted to see that they’re selling whole ducks from Early Bird Ranch in Pescadero. And just a few weeks ago, I received an advance review copy of Hank Shaw’s latest cookbook, Duck, Duck, Goose.

The stars had aligned. It was time to roast my first whole duck.

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Paleo Eats: 9/24/13

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Paleo Eats: 9/24/13 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

After working 6 graveyard shifts in a row, cooking was the last thing on my mind when I got home from the hospital yesterday morning. Henry’s still in New York City, so I couldn’t count on him to make dinner. And because I’m not exactly a great meal planner, I had no leftovers to repurpose.

So did I give in to the evil Mini-Me perched on my shoulder, egging me on to throw in the towel and JUST ORDER SOME TAKEOUT ALREADY?

If you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you already know that I managed not to cave.  

Paleo Eats: 9/24/13 by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

It helped that my in-laws were here to watch the kids while I was at work. By the time my car screeched into the driveway, they’d already gotten the Double-Os fed, dressed, and packed for school. After accompanying the spawn to their classroom doors, I checked the defrost bowl in my fridge for thawed meat, and found two packs of chicken thighs.  Now, all I needed was a simple way to cook ‘em.

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